Halloween is widely celebrated in Gloucestershire and children greatly enjoy the spooky goings on at this time of year by dressing up and knocking on doors to sing a song and demand, “Trick or Treat”. It is usual to give visiting children some sweets or a few coins. If you do not, beware or they may play a trick on you! Although this aspect was primarily an American custom, it has become popular in the UK.
What are the origins of Halloween? Halloween has its origins in pagan festivals held around the end of October in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. People believed that, at this time of year, the spirits of dead people could come ‘alive’ and walk among the living. They thought that it was important to dress up in costumes when venturing outside, to avoid being harmed by the spirits. This may be the origin of the Halloween costumes seen today. In Puritan times, Halloween celebrations were outlawed, but they were revived in later times.
Halloween was called All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints’ Day, observed on November 1. Halloween is more unusually known as Nut-crack Night, Thump-the-door Night or Apple and Candle Night. Some people call Halloween Bob Apple Night or Duck Apple Night. This comes from a traditional game played at this time of year and known as ‘apple bobbing’ or ‘apple ducking’. A bucket or other container is filled with water and one or more apples are floated on the water. The contestants take turns trying to catch an apple with their teeth. They must hold their hands behind their backs at all times.
Some people believe that apple bobbing is a reminder of the way women accused of witchcraft in the middle ages were tried. Tied to a chair, they were ducked beneath the water of a pond or river. If they survived, they were judged witches, were burnt at the stake, and if they drowned, were judged innocent. Either way, it was not good to be accused of witchcraft.
If you are staying with us during Halloween, carve yourself a pumpkin and try out some of these Gloucestershire Halloween celebrations.
Harry Potter Day at Gloucester Quays -22nd October 2012 11am
Meet brilliant lookalikes of Hagrid, Professor Dumbledore and Harry himself, enjoy a spectacular magic illusion show, make your own wand to take home, meet delightful owls from Gloucester’s Barn Owl Centre and enter a competition to win tickets to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter studio tour where the blockbuster films were made.
Dark Tales of Gloucestershire – 24th October 2012
Witches, mysterious creatures, robbers, and drunken fairies will all be found at Gloucester Waterways Museum when John Bassett, from Spaniel In The Works Theatre Company, presents a 30-minute solo version of the company’s popular show Dark Tales of Gloucestershire this October half term.
Dark Tales of Gloucestershire is suitable for children over five years old and takes traditional folk tales from across the county and retells them in a lively, funny, and exciting way using rhyme, music, and dance.
The performance is fast, silly and a lot of fun. This 30-minute version will feature six of the most popular tales including the legend of the Fairy Cider and the tale of Old Jinny the witch. There are three performances: 12:00, 13:00, and 14:00hrs.
Howl-o-ween at the Cotswold Wildlife Park – 27th October to 2nd November 2012
Howling good fun is to be had over the October half term. There will be special Wolverine feeds and a spooky train ride with terrifying tunnel! In the walled garden the ‘Pumpkin Patch’ will be back, last year our Garden team created lots of pumpkin people and carved pumpkins, complete with witches cauldron! There will also be a Pumpkin trail where you can learn facts about Owls, Bats, Snakes, Spiders, Wolves, and Wolverines at the Park.